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My Aching Feet

Foot specialists can help determine the cause of your foot pain

Close up view of an athlete tying her running shoes on a wooden pier

by Franz Kopp, MD

Patients frequently come into their doctor’s office with the complaint, "My feet hurt! "

Feet can hurt for many reasons, including bunions, arthritis, hammertoes, neuromas, heel pain and numerous other conditions. The cause of these problems can be genetic or may be due to improper shoe wear, injury or even general “wear and tear.”

The good news is, in most cases, foot pain can be relieved.

The key to relieving your foot pain and returning to an active lifestyle is making the correct diagnosis. However, the treatment of foot and ankle disorders can be complex and requires a trained professional.

Therefore, ask your doctor to refer you to an orthopedic foot and ankle specialist, that is, a medical doctor who is both an orthopedic surgeon and a foot and ankle expert.

Meeting with a foot specialist

During the first visit with your foot and ankle specialist, you will be asked to provide a detailed history of your problem, including exactly where your pain is located, how long you have experienced the pain, factors that make the pain better or worse and things that you may have already tried to relieve your symptoms.

You will also be asked about your general health, as this may play a role is diagnosing or treating your problem. Next, the doctor will perform a detailed physical examination and will likely obtain necessary X-rays or other tests. Once a diagnosis is established, a treatment plan will be outlined and you will be on your way to comfort.

Foot and ankle disorders can often be treated without surgery. Many problems can be treated with a change in the type of shoes that you wear or with simple shoe modifications, such as the addition of a special pad or orthotic (shoe insert).

Frequently, foot and ankle problems respond favorably to physical therapy and exercises, which you can learn from your doctor and from physical therapists. Occasionally, a small injection may relieve you of your discomfort.

Foot pain and surgery options

If your problem does not respond to nonoperative treatment or if your problem is severe, then you may require surgery. Foot and ankle surgery can be quite complex, requiring a surgeon with specialized training in order to obtain optimal results.

If surgery is required to correct your problem, then you doctor will discuss the operative plan with you in detail and answer all of your questions. Most foot and ankle surgery can be performed on an outpatient basis, so you can return home the same day as your surgery.

Fortunately, most patients are very pleased with the outcome of their surgery and would recommend the procedure to others with the same problem.

This Scripps Health and Wellness information was provided by Franz Kopp, MD, Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.